If the laws of nature are metaphysically necessary, then it appears that miracles are metaphysically impossible. Yet Locke accepts both Essentialism, which takes the laws to be metaphysically necessary, and the possibility of miracles. I argue that the apparent conflict here can be resolved if the laws are by themselves insufficient for guaranteeing the outcome of a particular event. This suggests that, on Locke’s view, the laws of nature entail how an object would behave absent divine intervention. While other views (...) of laws also make miracles counterfactually dependent on God’s will, I show how this view is consistent with the Essentialist commitment to the view that the laws are metaphysically necessary. Further, I argue Locke’s view is a relatively attractive version of Essentialism, in part, because it allows for the possibility of miracles. (shrink)
The aim of this chapter is to explain why Locke thinks religious belief requires evidence and, on his view, what evidence there is for religious belief. I will explain and defend Locke’s view that revelation can provide evidence for religious beliefs so long as there is evidence that God revealed it. Further, I will show how he takes the historical evidence of the miracles of Jesus as justification for belief in Christianity.
Hume famously argues that the laws of nature provide us with decisive reason to believe that any testimony of a miracle is false. In this paper, I argue that the laws of nature, as such, give us no reason at all to believe that the testimony of a miracle is false. I first argue that Hume’s proof is unsuccessful if we assume the Humean view of laws, and then I argue that Hume’s proof is unsuccessful even if we assume the (...) governing view of laws. I conclude that regardless of which kind of view we adopt, the fact that a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature does not give us any reason to believe it did not happen. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that Locke takes sensitive knowledge (i.e. knowledge from sensation) to be genuine knowledge that material objects exist. Samuel Rickless has recently argued that, for Locke, sensitive knowledge is merely an “assurance”, or a highly probable judgment that falls short of certainty. In reply, I show that Locke sometimes uses “assurance” to describe certain knowledge, and so the use of the term “assurance” to describe sensitive knowledge does not entail that it is less than certain. Further, (...) I show that sensitive knowledge includes the perception of a relation between ideas, and thus it satisfies Locke’s definition of knowledge. He also repeatedly claims that sensitive knowledge is certain. So, despite recent challenges to this interpretation raised in the secondary literature, Locke really does take sensitive knowledge to be certain knowledge. (shrink)
This paper is on Descartes’ account of modality and, in particular, his account of the necessity of the laws of nature. He famously argues that the necessity of the “eternal truths” of logic and mathematics depends on God’s will. Here I suggest he has the same view about the necessity of the laws of nature. Further, I argue, this is a plausible theory of laws. For philosophers often talk about something being nomologically or physically necessary because of the laws of (...) nature, but this necessity is thought to be metaphysically contingent. However, they struggle to explain how the laws could be genuinely necessary while being metaphysically contingent. The chief advantage of Descartes view, I argue, is that God’s will can plausibly explain both the necessity of the laws and the contingency of the laws. So, Descartes’ theistic account of laws provides a plausible explanation, perhaps the best explanation, of the contingent-necessity of laws of nature. (shrink)
The standard objection to Locke’s epistemology is that his conception of knowledge inevitably leads to skepticism about external objects. One reason for this complaint is that Locke defines knowledge as the perception of a relation between ideas, but perceiving relations between ideas does not seem like the kind of thing that can give us knowledge that tables and chairs exist. Thus Locke’s general definition of knowledge seems to be woefully inadequate for explaining knowledge of external objects. However, this interpretation and (...) subsequent criticism ignore a special category of knowledge Locke calls “real knowledge”, which is Locke’s own account of how we can have knowledge of the real world. In in this paper I argue that real knowledge of substances requires that, in addition to the perception of a relation between ideas, there be a necessary connection between our ideas and the external objects they represent. It is because Locke thinks there is a necessary connection between these ideas and reality that he thinks the perception of ideas can give us knowledge of the actual world. (shrink)
Christian apologists argue that the testimony of the miracles of Jesus provide evidence for Christianity. Hume tries to undermine this argument by pointing out that miracles are said to occur in other religious traditions and so miracles do not give us reason to believe in Christianity over the alternatives. Thus, competing miracles act as an undercutting defeater for the argument from miracles for Christianity. Yet, before Hume, Locke responds to this kind of objection, and in this paper I explain and (...) defend his response. In short, Locke argues that God will ensure that there is more evidence for Christianity (if true) and this greater evidence is an undercutting defeater for Hume’s competing miracles defeater (i.e., it is a defeater-defeater). If so, then, as Locke argues, competing miracles do not weaken the evidence from miracles for Christianity. (shrink)
This paper explores two related issues concerning Locke’s account of epistemic justification for empirical knowledge. One issue concerns the degree of justification needed for empirical knowledge. Commentators almost universally take Locke to hold a fallibilist account of justification, whereas I argue that Locke accepts infallibilism. A second issue concerns the nature of justification. Many (though not all) commentators take Locke to have a thoroughly internalist conception of justification for empirical knowledge, whereas I argue that he has a (partly) externalist conception (...) of justification: it is the fact that sensation is caused by an external object that justifies our belief in the corresponding object. So, while most commentators take Locke to be a fallibilist with an internalist conception of justification for empirical knowledge, I argue he is actually an infallibilist with an externalist conception of justification. (shrink)
In this paper I will defend the view that, according to Locke, secondary qualities are dispositions to produce sensations in us. Although this view is widely attributed to Locke, this interpretation needs defending for two reasons. First, commentators often assume that secondary qualities are dispositional properties because Locke calls them “powers” to produce sensations. However, primary qualities are also powers, so the powers locution is insufficient grounds for justifying the dispositionalist interpretation. Second, if secondary qualities are dispositional properties then objects (...) would retain secondary qualities while not being observed, but Locke says that colors “vanish” in the dark. Some commentators use this as evidence that Locke rejects the dispositionalist view of secondary qualities, and even those that are sympathetic to the traditional interpretation find these comments to be problematic. By contrast, I argue that even in these supposedly damning passages Locke shows an unwavering commitment to the view that the powers to produce sensations in us, i.e., the secondary qualities, remain in objects even when they are not being perceived. Thus the arguments against the traditional interpretation are unpersuasive, and we should conclude that Locke does indeed hold that secondary qualities are dispositions to cause sensations in us. (shrink)
A number of philosophers and theologians have argued that if God has knowledge of future human actions then human agents cannot be free. This argument rests on the assumption that, since God is essentially omniscient, God cannot be wrong about what human agents will do. It is this assumption that I challenge in this paper. My aim is to develop an interpretation of God’s essential omniscience according to which God can be wrong even though God never is wrong. If this (...) interpretation of essential omniscience is coherent, as I claim it is, then there is a logically consistent position according to which God is essentially omniscient, God foreknows what human agents will do, and yet it is possible for human agents to do otherwise. Thus, the argument for theological fatalism fails. (shrink)
The overarching theme of Locke’s Image of the World, by Michael Jacovides, is that Locke’s belief in the best science of his day shapes his philosophy in important ways. Jacovides contends that “by understanding the scientific background to Locke’s thoughts, we can better understand his work” (1), including both his positions and his arguments for those positions. To a lesser extent, Jacovides’s book also treats Locke as a case study in thinking about how much scientific theory should influence philosophy. While (...) much of the science Locke relies on is incomplete or problematic, and so leads him into errors, Jacovides is sympathetic to Locke’s approach of using the best scientific theories to help develop and justify his philosophical positions. Throughout the book Jacovides shows how science – Locke’s study of medicine, and later Boyle’s corpuscularianism, and then later Newton’s physics – influence Locke’s thinking on a variety of topics. The result is an impressive account of the history of science at a critical point in its development through the lens of one of the great philosophers of that time. (shrink)
Locke: Epistemology John Locke, one of the founders of British Empiricism, is famous for insisting that all our ideas come from experience and for emphasizing the need for empirical evidence. He develops his empiricist epistemology in An Essay Concerning Human understanding, which greatly influenced later empiricists such as George Berkeley and David Hume. In … Continue reading Locke: Epistemology →.